Tag Archives: review

Grendel’s Guide to Love and War

Grendel's Guide to Love and War Book Cover Grendel's Guide to Love and War
A. E. Kaplan
Young Adult Fiction
Knopf Books for Young Readers
April 18, 2017
320

The Perks of Being a Wallflower meets Revenge of the Nerds in this tale of a teen misfit who seeks to take down the bro next door, but ends up falling for his enemy's sister and uncovering difficult truths about his family in the process. Tom Grendel lives a quiet life--writing in his notebooks, mowing lawns for his elderly neighbors, and pining for Willow, a girl next door who rejects the "manic-pixie-dream" label. But when Willow's brother, Rex (the bro-iest bro ever to don a jockstrap), starts throwing wild parties, the idyllic senior citizens' community where they live is transformed into a war zone. Tom is rightfully pissed--his dad is an Iraq vet, and the noise from the parties triggers his PTSD--so he comes up with a plan to end the parties for good. But of course, it's not that simple. One retaliation leads to another, and things quickly escalate out of control, driving Tom and Willow apart, even as the parties continue unabated. Add to that an angsty existential crisis born of selectively reading his sister's Philosophy 101 coursework, a botched break-in at an artisanal pig farm, and ten years of unresolved baggage stemming from his mother's death . . . and the question isn't so much whether Tom Grendel will win the day and get the girl, but whether he'll survive intact. "Deep and uproarious all at once . . . A clever spin on a weighty classic." --Kirkus, starred review

 

Review:

I’m not sure how to describe “Grendel’s Guide to Love and War.”  It isn’t as deep as it could be, considering Tom Grendel has a very difficult life, including a father suffering from severe PTSD.  Yet it does evoke quite a few emotions by just skimming the surface of the issues he’s dealing with.  It is also hilarious. Laugh out loud hilarious.  If you’re looking for a fast read with a bit of an emotional roller coaster, give it a try.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence

All the Forever Things

All the Forever Things Book Cover All the Forever Things
Jolene Perry
Young Adult Fiction
Albert Whitman and Company
April 1, 2017
288

From growing up in the funeral home her family runs, Gabriella knows that death is a part of life and nothing is forever. Yet Bree, her best friend, has been a constant; it’s always been the two of them together against the world. But when Bree starts dating a guy—the worst guy— from that ultra-popular world, suddenly she doesn’t have time for Gabe anymore. Now the only one at school who wants to spend time with “Graveyard Gabe” is Hartman, the new guy, but Gabe, not wanting to lose her mind over a boyfriend the way Bree has, holds back. It takes a very strange prom night (with the family hearse instead of a limo) for Gabe to truly fall for Hartman. But when she leaves the after-prom party with him, she’s not there for Bree—or for the deadly accident that happens that night. Bree survives, but will she and Gabe ever be able to rebuild their friendship?

 

Review:

“All the Forever Things” is a unique book that deals with deep issues in a sensitive and entertaining way.

I think every young adult or adult who is/was an outcast will be able to relate to “Graveyard Gabe,” even if your family does not own a funeral home. The story is bittersweet and touches on friendship, embracing who we are, first loves, forgiveness, and death.  Somehow this is all put together in a way that hurts at times but is funny and entertaining at others.

I recommend “All the Forever Things” for upper middle graders through adults who are looking for a good young adult novel that is different from the norm.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Disturbing Imagery

Always

Always Book Cover Always
Sarah Jio
Fiction
Ballantine Books
February 7, 2017
288

A gripping novel about the kind of love that never lets go, and the heart's capacity to remember, from the New York Times bestselling author of Blackberry Winter and The Violetes of March Enjoying a romantic candlelit dinner with her fianc�, Ryan, at one of Seattle's chicest restaurants, Kailey Crain can't believe her good fortune: She has a great job as a journalist and is now engaged to a guy who is perfect in nearly every way. As she and Ryan leave the restaurant, Kailey spies a thin, bearded homeless man on the sidewalk. She approaches him to offer up her bag of leftovers, and is stunned when their eyes meet, then stricken to her very core: The man is the love of her life, Cade McAllister. When Kailey met Cade ten years ago, their attraction was immediate and intense--everything connected and felt right. But it all ended suddenly, leaving Kailey devastated. Now the poor soul on the street is a faded version of her former beloved: His weathered and weary face is as handsome as Kailey remembers, but his mind has suffered in the intervening years. Over the next few weeks, Kailey helps Cade begin to piece his life together, something she initially keeps from Ryan. As she revisits her long-ago relationship, Kailey realizes that she must decide exactly what--and whom--she wants. Alternating between the past and the present, Always is a beautifully unfolding exploration of a woman faced with an impossible choice, a woman who discovers what she's willing to save and what she will sacrifice for true love. Advance praise for Always "A heartwarming story of personal growth and the power of nostalgia . . . Fans of Elin Hilderbrand and Emily Giffin should enjoy this warm and compassionate novel."--Booklist Praise for Sarah Jio Goodnight June "Sarah Jio's delightful and uplifting novel is guaranteed to melt even the toughest cynic and deserves a top rating of five stars (plus the moon)."--Historical Novels Review "A tribute to family and forgiveness."--Booklist Morning Glory "Jio explores the degree to which time and distance give comfort to those who have experienced loss [with] a depth of feeling in her writing."--Publishers Weekly "Jio has become one of the most-read women in America."--Woman's World Blackberry Winter "Compelling . . . an intoxicating blend of mystery, history, and romance."--Real Simple "Ingenious . . . imaginative."--The Seattle Times

 

Review:

“Always” is a sweet romance of love lost and found.  I enjoyed the story but found it lacked the depth of Sarah Jio’s previous books.  It’s still very much worth the read if you’re a fan.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

Garden of Thorns

GARDEN OF THORNS Book Cover GARDEN OF THORNS
Amber Mitchell
Young Adult Fiction
Entangled Publishing
February 27, 2017
370

After seven grueling years of captivity in the Garden--a burlesque troupe of slave girls--sixteen-year-old Rose finds an opportunity to escape during a performance for the emperor. But the hostage she randomly chose from the crowd to aid her isn't one of the emperor's men--not anymore. He's the former heir to the throne, who is now leading a rebellion against it. Rayce is a wanted man and dangerously charismatic, the worst person for Rose to get involved with, no matter what his smile promises. But he assumes Rose's attempt to take him hostage is part of a plot to crush the rebellion, so he takes her ashis hostage. Now Rose must prove where her loyalties lie, and she offers Rayce a deal--if he helps her rescue the other girls, she'll tell him all the Garden's secrets. Except the one secret she's kept for seven years that she'll to take to her grave if she must.

 

Review:

I loved “Garden of Thorns.”  It features a heroine who kicks butt and an intense political uprising.

The premise has two characters and stories that come together for mutual benefit.  Rose was kidnapped as a young child to serve in a burlesque troop made up of underaged slaves.  Rayce is leading an uprising against a tyrant.  There is romance, but it is sweet and simmering, and not at all graphic.  The main plot is focused on the action. Those with weak stomachs beware, the violence is brutal and graphic.

I recommend “Garden of Thorns” for anyone looking for a young adult novel with a strong heroine and a quick-paced plot.  I hope there’s a sequel!

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Graphic Violence, Child Abuse

 

Maid of the King’s Court

Maid of the King's Court Book Cover Maid of the King's Court
Lucy Worsley
Young Adult Fiction
Candlewick Press
March 14, 2017
368

In the vibrant, volatile court of Henry VIII, can even the most willful young woman direct her own fate and follow her heart in a world ruled by powerful men?

Clever, headstrong Elizabeth Rose Camperdowne knows her duty. As the sole heiress to an old but impoverished noble family, Eliza must marry a man of wealth and title — it’s the only fate for a girl of her standing. But when a surprising turn of events lands her in the royal court as a maid of honor to Anne of Cleves, Eliza is drawn into the dizzying, dangerous orbit of Henry the Eighth and struggles to distinguish friend from foe. Is her glamorous flirt of a cousin, Katherine Howard, an ally in this deceptive place, or is she Eliza’s worst enemy? And then there’s Ned Barsby, the king’s handsome page, who is entirely unsuitable for Eliza but impossible to ignore. British historian Lucy Worsley provides a vivid, romantic glimpse of the treachery, tragedy, and thrills of life in the Tudor court.

 

Review:

“Maid of the King’s Court” is an excellent historical fiction novel about life in the court of King Henry VIII.

While the story of Elizabeth is fictionalized, most of the facts of life at the time are as historically accurate as possible, owing to the fact that the author (Lucy Worsley) is a British historian who actually works at the castle featured in the book.  I have always enjoyed reading about life in Tudor England, and this novel did not disappoint.  It’s also surprisingly clean considering it’s about life with King Henry VIII.  It does have talk about sexual situations but none involving the main character.

I highly recommend “Maid of the King’s Court” to those who like historical fiction with a dash of romance.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence

 

True North (True Born, Book 2)

True North Book Cover True North
True Born, Book 2
L.E. Sterling
Juvenile Fiction
Entangled: Teen
April 4, 2017
Hardcover
400

Abandoned by her family in Plague-ridden Dominion City, eighteen-year-old Lucy Fox has no choice but to rely upon the kindness of the True Borns, a renegade group of genetically enhanced humans, to save her twin sister, Margot. But Nolan Storm, their mysterious leader, has his own agenda. When Storm backtracks on his promise to rescue Margot, Lucy takes her fate into her own hands and sets off for Russia with her True Born bodyguard and maybe-something-more, the lethal yet beautiful Jared Price. In Russia, there's been whispered rumors of Plague Cure.

While Lucy fights her magnetic attraction to Jared, anxious that his loyalty to Storm will hurt her chances of finding her sister, they quickly discover that not all is as it appears…and discovering the secrets contained in the Fox sisters' blood before they wind up dead is just the beginning.

As they say in Dominion, sometimes it’s not you…it’s your DNA.

 

Review:

“True North” is the second book in the “True Born” trilogy.  I found it to be much more fun and less confusing than the first.

Part of the reason it is more fun is that I have accepted the somewhat ridiculous premise and beyond sketchy science and just decided to go along for the ride.  There is a new character, Alistair, who is intriguing and has me anxious for the next book to learn more.  The romance is also ramped up quite a bit for those who were waiting for that.

If you enjoyed “True Born,” you will love “True North.”

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence

Duels & Deception

Duels & Deception Book Cover Duels & Deception
Cindy Anstey
Young Adult Fiction
Macmillan
April 11, 2017
368

In 1800s London, a young heiress and her lawyer are caught up in a kidnapping plot to steal her fortune, but as their investigation delves deeper and their affections for each other grow, Lydia starts to wonder what she truly wants.

 

Review:

I feel like I am the wrong person to review “Duels & Deception.”  It definitely seems like this is a case of “it isn’t the book; it’s me.”  The budding romance featured is cute and the historical elements are fascinating.  It’s also a very clean book for those looking for one, which is not very easy to find.  The flowery prose just seemed to grate on me and kept me from enjoying it.  If this seems like the type of book you will enjoy, please give it a try.  Don’t let my dislike sway you.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

 

Content Warning:

Minor Violence, Alcoholic Character

Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts, Book 1)

Gilded Cage Book Cover Gilded Cage
Dark Gifts, Book 1
Vic James
Del Rey Books
February 14, 2017
368

For readers of Victoria Aveyard and Kiera Cass comes a darkly fantastical debut set in a modern England where magically gifted aristocrats rule--and commoners are doomed to serve. NOT ALL ARE FREE. NOT ALL ARE EQUAL. NOT ALL WILL BE SAVED. Our world belongs to the Equals--aristocrats with magical gifts--and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England's grandest estate lies a power that could break the world. A girl thirsts for love and knowledge. Abi is a servant to England's most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of their noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family's secrets might win her liberty--but will her heart pay the price? A boy dreams of revolution. Abi's brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution. And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts. He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate--or destroy?

 

Review:

“Gilded Cage” is a good take on a dystopian world mixed with fantasy elements.

The story is well-thought out with multiple points of view effectively used to both advance the story and tell it from different segments of the society.  The world-building is excellent.  All of the characters are complex and leave some mystery to them to be explored in the next book.  There are definitely some parallels to the current political climate throughout the book to be found.

I recommend “Gilded Cage” to lovers of dystopian books mixed with some magical elements.  It’s a quick and relatively clean read that is thought-provoking and fun.  I’m looking forward to the next book.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Brief Sexual Situations, Violence

One Italian Summer

One Italian Summer
Keris Stainton
Hot Key Books
May 4, 2017
Paperback
256

'Gentle and romantic. A holiday in itself.' Rainbow Rowell 'I flew through ONE ITALIAN SUMMER. It's a perfect summer read with a gorgeous setting, warm characters and a bittersweet evocation of life after tragedy.' Sophia Bennett, author of LOVE SONG Milly loves her sisters more than anything - they are her best friends. But this holiday is different. The loss of their dad has left a gaping hole in their lives that none of them know how to fill. Heartbreak is a hard thing to fix ...Still, there is plenty to keep the girls busy in Rome. A family wedding. Food, wine, parties and sun. And of course Luke ...Luke is hot, there is no way around that. And Milly will always have a crush on him. But this summer is about family, being together, and learning to live without Dad. It isn't about Luke at all ...is it?

 

Review:

“One Italian Summer” is a light ya romance that reads quickly but lacks much substance.

While there was an attempt at making the characters developed, I still felt somewhat removed from them, especially the love interest, Luke.  There was little to no explanation of exactly why Milly was so interested in him, aside from a rather alarming amount of wanting to lick his muscles.  Not going to lie, the amount of times a phrase like that was thought by her was a bit unsettling.  I know this complaint may be nitpicky, but the author seems to lose track of what her characters were doing quite a bit.  Characters would stand up twice in one page without sitting down, be in a car one second and in a parking lot walking to the car the next, etc.  It kept pulling me out of the story.

That being said, “One Italian Summer” is still a cute romance if you’re looking for a beach read that doesn’t require much from you.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Alcohol Use

The Inconceivable Life of Quinn

The Inconceivable Life of Quinn Book Cover The Inconceivable Life of Quinn
Marianna Baer
Harry N. Abrams
April 4, 2017
384

Quinn Cutler is sixteen and the daughter of a high-profile Brooklyn politician. She s also pregnant, a crisis made infinitely more shocking by the fact that she has no memory of ever having sex. Before Quinn can solve this deeply troubling mystery, her story becomes public. Rumors spread, jeopardizing her reputation, her relationship with a boyfriend she adores, and her father s campaign for Congress. Religious fanatics gather at the Cutlers home, believing Quinn is a virgin, pregnant with the next messiah. Quinn s desperate search for answers uncovers lies and family secrets strange, possibly supernatural ones. Might she, in fact, be a virgin? "

 

Review:

I normally hate giving two star reviews, but almost everything about “The Inconceivable Life of Quinn” rubbed me the wrong way.

The main problem for me was Quinn herself.  I didn’t find her at all likable. Instead she was irritating and kind of full of herself.  Her father made me want to punch things.  The plot wore thin about 75 pages before the book ended and it was an unsatisfying conclusion.

I appreciate the hard work the author put into this, and wish her luck in her future writing, but I just can’t recommend this one.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence, Discussions of Rape, Underage Alcohol Use